AMERI DEAL – GOVERNMENT DENIED INFLATING FIGURES

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Dr Kwabena Donkor

Ghana’s Power Ministry has denied a
publication by a Norwegian newspaper that the
Government of Ghana, represented by the
Ministry “entered into an arrangement to
secure a 250MW power plant with a company
of dubious background” and that “the
transaction amount of $510 million is inflated
compared to other options.”
Below is the full publication of the Norwegian
newspaper VG.no:
Ghana’s minister of power does not even
bother to lift his eyes when two journalists
from the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang
(VG) enter his huge office at the government
quarter in the capital city of Accra.
His desk is covered with large stacks of
document that are strewn in front of him.
Kwabena Donkor has one cell phone on top of
a stack of papers, while a second phone is
charging on the windowsill.
It is September 9th, and Donkor is a very busy
politician: A crippling energy crisis is playing
havoc with Ghana, and it is the minister’s job
to solve the problem.
Donkor confirmed to VG that the government
of Ghana had acquired ten gas turbines from a
company called Ameri Group. The minister had
signed the contract seven months earlier,
which may be the best transaction ever for the
mystical Dubai-based company he did his
business with.
VG showed the minister a photo of a wanted
man; a Pakistani Norwegian named Umar
Farooq Zahoor (40). The 40-year-old man from
Oslo is wanted by Norwegian and Swiss police
for spectacular acts of fraud committed the
last ten years.
VG showed the minister a picture, and he
pointed to the Pakistani Norwegian right away.
He knows him as the head of the Ameri Group.
– I know him; he is the Chief executive of
Ameri Group, Donkor says.
Then we show the minister a picture of the
man who co-signed the agreement with Umar
Farooq Zahoor, a prince from the ruling family
in Dubai. The minister has no doubts:
– The sheikh, his royal highness. They both
work for Ameri Group, he said.
VG investigated what happened after the
wanted man from Norway and the prince from
Dubai acquired ten gas turbines for Ghana for
510 million US dollars.
VG’s investigations show that these turbines
usually sell for 220 million dollars.
So why did the West African country pay 290
million dollars more than the standard price?
Mohammed Amin Adam, the director of a
Ghanaian think tank called Africa Centre for
Energy Policy, is highly sceptical.
– If you can help us find out who these people
at Ameri Group are we would certainly pursue
the case here, he told VG when we met him at
his office in Accra.
VG has been following Ameri Group’s tracks
for seven months on several continents. The
full name of Ameri Group is Africa and Middle
East Resources Investment Group.
According to the company website, the
company works to develop, co-own and
operate power plants in different parts of the
world.
The company has apparently achieved
spectacular success in a very short period of
time. Their website was created two months
before the multi-million dollar contract was
signed with the government of Ghana.
It’s pitch dark in one of Accra’s poorest
neighbourhoods, Nima. The sun has set for
today, and the electricity is gone. Power can
disappear for 24 hours at a time in this
impoverished neighbourhood.
Everything goes black, every day, more and
more often and for longer periods of time. The
energy crisis is very debilitating for the
country.
In 2014 alone, Ghana lost over two billion
dollars due to the national power crisis,
according to a report from Ghana’s largest
university.
The residents of the neighbourhood told VG
just how desperate the situation really was:
Electrical systems are damaged, food stored in
freezers rots and businesses go bankrupt.
The crisis got so bad last year that the
president of Ghana handpicked someone to
solve the problem: Dr Kwabena Donkor.
Donkor signed the agreement with Ameri
Group six weeks later on the 10th of February
this year.
Ameri Group would provide Ghana with ten gas
turbines. This procurement would help solve
the energy crisis.
The contract was signed by the minister of
power and another prominent representative of
Ghanaian authorities, Assistant Attorney
General and Minister of Justice Dominic Ayine.
VG got its hands on a copy of the agreement,
which is 49 pages long. The director who
signed for the company in Dubai is now a well-
known name among investigators at the
Financial Crime Section of the Oslo Police
District: Pakistani Norwegian Umar Farooq
Zahoor.
As early as 2013, Deputy Chief of Police for
Oslo Gro Smogeli singled out Zahoor as a
ringleader of one of Norway’s boldest and
biggest bank frauds ever; the so-called Nordea
Swindle.
VG announced today that Farooq Zahoor is also
wanted internationally by Norwegian police and
Interpol for his leading role in this scam.
The Borgarting Court of Appeal announced its
unanimous verdict on 26 November confirming
reasonable grounds to suspect the 40-year-old
of fraud, as part of organized criminal activity
subject to Norway’s mafia activities paragraph.
The Pakistani Norwegian is also wanted for
running a fake bank in Switzerland.
Umar Farooq Zahoor portrays himself as a
busy and prosperous businessman. His base of
operations the past nine years has been the
United Arab Emirate of Dubai. He has been
living here in a luxurious mansion in one of
Dubai’s most fashionable neighbourhoods, as
new luxury cars appear in his garage from
time to time.
His story began in 1971 when Umar Farooq
Zahoor’s father left a small village in Pakistan
to try his luck in Europe. He ended up in Oslo.
He set up the first immigrant store in the
neighbourhood of Grønland, Oslo, together
with his wife who joined him in Norway some
years later.
20 years later the family owned 5 stores in the
same neighbourhood. They sold food, clothing,
gold items and ran a travel agency.
The couple had 15 children. Umar was the
second oldest son. As the parents ran their
businesses, many of their sons learned to be
criminals.
Umar was sentenced to one year in prison in
2003 for embezzling airline tickets from his
family’s travel agency. The Oslo District Court
stated that he had shown clear criminal intent,
and that his actions were thoroughly planned
and had a professional touch.
Umar Farooq Zahoor did not appear in court.
Before the trial the judge had received a letter
from the accused asking for a postponement in
the case. In the letter, the man from Oslo told
the court he was in the midst of business
negotiations with bank connections in
Switzerland.
Later on the police discovered that he was in
full swing at the time with a new and
spectacular crime. He had rented office space
with a New Zealander in Zürich’s best business,
at which they hung up a gilded sign that read
Bank.
What customers thought was a real bank would
drain its victims for a combined loss of 20
million dollars.
Farooq Zahoor’s business partner was
sentenced to three years and six months in
prison for this super scam. During his trial,
Zahoor’s partner told the Zurich District Court
that starting a fake bank was his Farooq
Zahoors partner’s idea.
By the time the Swiss police headed off to
arrest the Farooq Zahoor he had already
moved to his father’s country of origin.
Some years later the man from Oslo was on
the run again, this time heading for Dubai,
where he began his dubious affairs again.
Together with a band of fraudsters he managed
to empty the Nordea bank account of a very
wealthy widow over the course of 13 days in
the summer of 2010. He recieved help from
an employee at the bank’s branch office in
Oslo to withdraw 10 million dollars.
6 million dollars were transferred to two
accounts that belonged to a Norwegian
businesswoman who lived in Dubai named
Sonia Rashid.
On the 25 th of June 2013, nearly three years
after this record-breaking fraud, Sonia Rashid
admitted to VG that she had withdrawn this
money in cash.
She said she gave the millions to Umar Farooq
Zahoor.
“Umar was with me when I withdrew the
money. He sat in the car while I drove from
bank to bank. I went inside the banks and
withdrew money that had been transferred to
my accounts in Dubai. I gave him the money
when I got in the car”, Rashid said.
Despite extensive media coverage in recent
years, Zahoor continued to work for major
financial institutions in Norway. He has worked
the last six years as a consultant for a
Norwegian company called NBT ASA, which
develops wind power projects in China and in
the Karachi area of Pakistan.
The three largest owners of NBT ASA are the
corporate finance company Arctic Securities,
billionaire Lars Nilsen via his investment
company and Kjell Inge Røkke’s Aker Capital
AS.
17 September this year: The Greek EPC
contractor and industrial group METKA issued
a press release from its headquarters in
Athens. The company specialises in major
energy, infrastructure and defence projects has
good news:
They have secured the first major contract in
Sub-Saharan Africa. The entrepreneurial giant
had opened an office in Ghana’s capital city
only a few weeks earlier.
METKA is owned by one of the richest
dynasties in Greece, the Mytilineos family.
According to the press release, the industrial
giant had acquired a new partner: Ameri
Group.
The Greek corporation informed that its
wholly-owned Turkish subsidiary will be
providing Ghana with ten brand new gas
turbines manufactured by General Electric (GE).
In addition to that, the Greeks will be
responsible for operation and maintenance of
the turbines.
The press release said this is a five-year
agreement with the government of Ghana and
METKA’s partners in the agreement, Ameri
Group.
METKA said their share of the deal exeeds 350
million dollars. This sum is up to 160 million
dollars less than the 510 million that Ghana
will be paying Ameri for the turbines.
Nobody yet knows who got their hands on this
money.
VG has posed several questions to METKA. The
company’s spokesperson Elli Gardiki replied in
an email, saying they cannot speak about the
details of this agreement, referring to the press
release from September.
– The projects we carry out are complex
technical projects, and as such each one is by
no means identical. Each project varies
significantly depending on many factors, such
as overall project scope, delivery time, site and
others. No project and no contract is identical
and simplified comparisons can lead to wrong
conclusions, she stated.
Ameri Energy was presented in the press
release from September as part of energy
investments made by His Royal Highness
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, a
member of the ruling family in Dubai.
The press release also stated that the project
was made possible with active support from
General Electric (GE) in the United States.
GE would not comment on what active support
means, VG was told by Communication
Manager Ivar Simensen at General Electric
Norway.
“METKA will respond to its own press releases”,
GE’s communication manager said.
GE’s spokesperson would not comment on
whether they sold gas turbines to the Ameri
Group, or what price the turbines were sold
for.
Dubai’s largest traffic artery is the Sheikh
Zayed Road. Its 16 lanes cut right through the
city and continue west toward Abu Dhabi.
On the right side of the highway, not far from
the Burj Khalifa Skyscraper, lies a weatherworn
five-storey building. The Emgate Building
consists of business offices and apartments.
Until recently one could visit a streetside used
car store named Deals on Wheels.
This is where the Ameri Group supposedly has
its headquarters. The contract and the
company’s websites give this as their main
office.
VG has been in contact with the employees of
a medical center in the same building. They
have never heard of the company.
Umar Farooq Zahoor signed the multi-million
dollar contract in Ghana together with Prince
of Dubai Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Al
Maktoum. The Arabian prince is named and
mentioned frequently in Ameri’s websites. The
40-year-old Pakistani Norwegian is not
mentioned anywhere.
Ameri Group’s website states that the
company’s affairs are based on trust, integrity
and transparency. We are a very ethical
corporation and are proud of our work, it
states.
The multi-million dollar contract was signed in
the greatest secrecy. There were no members
of the press present when the contract was
entered into. Until now, the name of the
person who represented the company was a
well-kept secret.
Ameri Group’s website also lists the prince as
chairman of the board. The website also
maintains that the prince travels to poor
countries in the third world and participates in
development projects to provide energy
solutions for electricity, water and better
infrastructure for the inhabitants of those
countries.
According to the Ameri Group, the prince’s
motto is: a better world for the less fortunate.
Director Mohammed Amin Adam of the think
tank Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP)
does not believe this agreement will make the
world a better place.
On the contrary, he is very critical to the
agreement between the Ghanaian government
and Ameri Group.
According to the agreement, Ghana will lease
the ten gas turbines for five years. After that,
Ghana becomes owner of the turbines after
paying an equipment cost of 510 million
dollars.
– That same equipment could have been
purchased for 220 million dollars. The
Ghanaian authorities would have saved 290
million dollars, said Amin Adam.
– Why did the authorities decide to trust Ameri
Group?
– It makes no sense economically. We think
someone is making money on of this deal, but
we do not have any evidence yet, the head of
the think tank said.
In addition to an equipment price of 510
million dollars, Ghana will pay variable costs of
16 million dollars annually, according to a
report from the National Assembly of Ghana.
Ghana will also need to pay for the gas to
power the ten turbines.
According to the agreement the ten gas
turbines are type TM2500 , often referred to
as a power plant on wheels.
VG’s investigations show that the standard
price for these turbines is about 20 million
dollars. Last summer, GE sold eight identical
turbines to Sonelgaz, the state energy company
in Algeria, for 161 million dollars.
Professor Olav Bolland is one of Norway’s
foremost experts on gas power plants.
– This is one of the world’s most popular
turbines, if not the most common, he said.
– A simple internet search indicates that they
sell for about 22 million dollars each. That
seems to be a reasonable price if you ask me
based on my previous experience pricing
power plants.
He leads the Institute of Energy and Process
Engineering at the Norwegian University of
Science and Technology (NTNU).
The agreement was sent to the National
Assembly for approval after the government
had signed the agreement with Ameri Group.
The minister’s delegation reported to Ghanaian
elected representatives that a direct purchase
of the ten turbines would cost 411 million
dollars. This amount is almost double the
standard price for such turbines on the world
market.
A crucial reason for choosing Ameri Group,
was that the company could deliver the
turbines quickly, while it would take nine
months or a year for GE to manufacture ten
turbines, the minister said.
But it was not until late October (eight months
after the agreement was signed) that the
turbines were unloaded at the Port of Accra.
From there they were transported to a power
station in the west, where they are now being
connected to the power grid and soon ready to
produce electricity.
The minister of power have argued to VG that
he did nothing wrong when he signed the
agreement with the mysterious company:
– I would not get involved in anything that is
not good for Ghana, he said.
VG made a number of attempts to get Umar
Farooq Zahoor, the prince and Ameri Group to
explain why Ghana had to pay such an
enormous price. Neither the prince nor the
wanted Oslo man have responded to VG’s
enquiries.
After sending an email to the address listed on
the company’s website, someone named Kate
spoke on behalf of Ameri Group saying:
– Mr Umar stopped working for our company
a few months ago to pursue bigger business
opportunities.
The mysterious company does not want to
answer VG’s question:
– We are a privately held company in Dubai
that does business all over the world, also in
Ghana. We see no reason to answer any of
your questions. We do not understand why a
Norwegian newspaper would be interested in
what we do, she writes.
Not many inhabitants of the Accra slum care
anymore.
“They are all corrupt thieves!”
Head of the neighbourhood council, Aziz
Haruna, is furious over his countries
politicians.
It’s six o’clock in the evening and power in the
city’s most densely-populated neighbourhood
has just gone.
Like so many others in this neighbourhood,
Haruna has lost faith in politics and politicians.
He waves his arms and says:
– Our politicians are stealing our country’s
resources. If you want to be rich in Ghana, you
need to become a politician.
Source: VG.no
And below is the Power Ministry’s full denial
statement:

MINISTRY OF POWER
STATEMENT ON FALSE PUBLICATIONS ABOUT
AMERI ENERGY POWER PROJECT

The Ministry of Power has noted publications
in sections of the media attributed to a
Norwegian newspaper, VG. The thrust of these
publications is that:
1. The Ministry of Power representing
Government entered into an arrangement to
secure a 250MW power plant with a company
of dubious background.
2. That the transaction amount of $510 million
is inflated compared to other options.
The Ministry wishes to state that these
publications are false, misleading and a gross
misrepresentation of the facts. For the
avoidance of doubt, the Ministry of Power
wishes to clarify the matter as follows:

ISSUE OF COST OF PLANT
• The Ministry wishes to state that the
agreement with AMERI is a Build, Own,
Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement and
not an outright purchase of generating plants.
• The Government of Ghana has not made ANY
PAYMENTS to AMERI and will not be making
any payments for the cost of the equipment.
• Per the agreement with AMERI, the
Government of Ghana through the Volta River
Authority (VRA) will only make payments to
Ameri for power produced and supplied to the
VRA just like any other Independent Power
Producer (IPP).
• Also, per the agreement, Government was
required to provide a standby Letter of Credit
(LC) for an amount of US$51 million, which LC
has been raised.
• Ghana will however assume eventual
ownership of the equipment after five (5) years
of production and sale of the power to the
VRA.
• It must also be explained that the quoted
price of $220 million in the Norwegian story
for outright purchase of similar turbines is
exclusive of all other costs such as auxiliaries,
balance of plant, civil works, sub-station,
installation of equipment, cost of financing,
operation and maintenance etc.
• Under the agreement with AMERI Energy, the
cost of all these auxiliary works is being borne
by AMERI Energy.
• From the foregoing, it is false to claim that
the Government of Ghana signed a $510
million agreement for the plant, when it
should have been $220 million.
• On claims that the manufacturers of the
plant, GE, could have been contacted to
negotiate a direct purchase, the Ministry
wishes to state that an earlier offer from GE
Consortium to the VRA for similar equipment
on rental basis proved to be far more
expensive and was therefore rejected by the
VRA.

ISSUE OF DUE DILIGENCE ON AMERI ENERGY
POWER PLANT
• The Government of Ghana has not entered
into any agreement with Umar Farooq Zahoor.
The Government of Ghana has an agreement
with AMERI Energy.
• The Chairman of AMERI Energy is Sheikh
Mohamed AL Maktoum who signed the
agreement for his firm. Umar Farooq signed as
a witness for him. • The Bank of Ghana before
establishing the Standby LC conducted its own
due diligence on AMERI Energy.
• The American firm, JP Morgan also
independently conducted its own due diligence
before confirming the Standby LC for the
project.
• Government of Ghana represented by the
Ministry of Power and the Attorney General’s
Department also conducted due diligence on
AMERI Energy and reviewed strenuously the
project agreement before submitting to
Parliament.
• Parliament, upon receipt of relevant
documentation on the project and the
agreement, also scrutinized and reviewed the
agreement before approving it at the
Committee Level unanimously and later by the
House.

CONCLUSION
The Ministry of Power will continue to work
assiduously to end the current power sector
challenges. In doing so we expect all
stakeholders to commit to the noble path of
resolving this national challenge instead of
throwing in misleading claims programmed to
disrupt and derail its efforts.
We wish to reiterate that as part of efforts to
resolve the current load shedding exercise, the
following are underway:
• 225MW Karpower Barge is ramping up
generation to attain the contracted generation
capacity.
• The 250MW AMERI Plant is undergoing
commissioning.
• The first unit of the 220MW Kpone Thermal
Plant is also undergoing commissioning.
• The 12OMW TICO Steam Expansion has been
completed.
• The first part of 120MW of the 360MW Sunon
Asogli Plant is near completion.
Dr. Kwabena DONKOR
MINISTER FOR POWER
ACCRA

Source :ghanaweb

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